Danger from ISIS and Al Qaeda; What India should do

Written by: Pathikrit Payne
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Close on the heels of shocking revelations about the increasing activities of ISIS to recruit Indian youth for nefarious acts of terror, Al Qaida has come out with a new video which declares their setting up of a separate entity for operations in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The new entity has been named Qaedat-al-Jihad and is a reflection of Al Qaeda's sinister quest to expand its operations more into South Asia and especially into India.

Why India should not take these threats lightly....

There are several reasons for which this development is not to be taken lightly. In the first place, it was always a foregone conclusion that with the gradual exit of US led Coalition Forces from Afghanistan, the attention of all the Jihadi elements including Al Qaeda and also Teheek-e-Taliban would shift towards India.

The pattern in which it is destined to happen is very similar to the manner in which just after the exit of the Soviet led forces from Afghanistan, a large number of literally jobless Mujahids were reoriented towards J&K by Pakistan. That was the time when terrorism in J&K started. Therefore it is nothing surprising that Al Qaeda is gradually upping the ante towards that objective again.

Is the rise of ISIS pushing Al Qaeda to spread its wings too?

In the same league it has also to be kept in mind that the phoenix like rise of ISIS, the kind of brutality and hatred they have propagated, their battlefield success in terms of being able to conquer large swathe of land in Northern Iraq and Northern Syria and their promulgation and propagation of violent extremist ideology have got the attention and made many such radical elements across Middle East and even in South Asia shift their allegiance towards ISIS from Al Qaeda, thereby making Al Qaeda losing much of its prominence and supremacy in the terror world. Thus Al Qaeda needed to do something like this release of video to vindicate that they are still in the fray.

Is there a Pakistan hand behind the Al Qaeda Plans for India?

However, over the last several years, Al Qaeda has been battered and had suffered loss of a large number of its top and middle rung leaders including Osama Bin Laden, Ilyas Kashmiri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Anwar al-Awlaki and Saaed al-Sherhri were killed by US drones attack. Today Al Qaeda remains merely a shadow of what it used to be and thus it is not in a position to orchestrate what it plans for India without the active help of Pakistan and other radical Islamic terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Therefore, even while the release of the video is mostly out of the quest of Al Qaeda to rake up its depleting stock and motivate its cadres, the Pakistan hand behind it cannot be ruled out at all. Al Qaeda's top leader Ayman Al Zawahiri who is on the run now, is suspected to be hiding in Pakistan much in the way Osama Bin Laden was hiding.

With increasing radicalism in Pakistan and with terror groups like Tehreek e Taliban now in full blown war with the Pakistani establishment, Pakistan has been attempting to galvanise many of these elements towards something which would reduce their activities inside Pakistan and Pakistan would be able to channelize them to fulfil its own objective of continuing with its proxy war in India or attempt to take it beyond that.

Pakistan's attitude towards India has not changed one bit over the last many years and proof enough of that is the manner in which Nawaz Sharif Government faced the brunt of the Pakistan Army backed mass agitation by opposition parties led by Imran Khan primarily because Sharif had attempted to improve ties with India. That Pakistan would again attempt to provoke a new wave of terrorism or a Kargil kind of operation in India, is a foregone conclusion and is only a matter of time.

Mayhem in Sryia & Iraq- Proof enough of what Al Qaeda and ISIS can do in India

Nevertheless, whatever the case might be, India cannot take either the increasing influence of ISIS or Al Qaeda's orientation towards India, lightly. Both the threats are clear and present and the kind of mayhem they are capable of orchestrating is evident from the devastation they have created in Iraq and Syria.

In many other countries of Africa and Middle East as well, several affiliates of Al Qaeda or ISIS are now doing the same havoc as they have been planning to do in India. There is no doubt Pakistan's ISI in collaboration with LeT and Indian Mujahideen have created enough sleeper cells in India and the increasing spread of Wahhabism in India have also created the some extremely dangerous pockets of extremist ideology which the ISIS and Al Qaeda would surely try to harvest.

Therefore it is imperative for India to make sure that it no more consider these issues as mere law & order issues or presume that there is no need to be alarmed. The situation in Syria and Iraq or in Libya or Afghanistan is proof enough what these fanatic extremist groups can do if not nipped in the bud.

Is it time for India to reform its internal security architecture?

It is high time for India to have drastic changes in the internal security architecture and give more powers to the central intelligence and investigation agencies for more pre-emptive actions against terror modules and sleepers cells present inside the country.

It is important for India to realise that what ISIS or Al Qaeda is planning to do in India is nothing less than waging a war against the nation and thus such threats should be treated as national security issues instead of merely considering them as normal issues of organised crime which constituent state level police forces can handle.

The mess that Maharahstra Police created during 26/11 was proof enough of lack of capacity or ability of state level police forces to take on a large number of terrorists when they attack in unison.

The need of the hour is for the Central Government to bring in constitutional change if needed and take lead in dealing with all issues related to national security, be it internal or external. It has to be remembered that terrorism can no longer be treated as a law & order issues but a national security issue and if needed not just Central security agencies but also the Indian Army would be needed to get involved if such threats are to be nipped in the bud.

Time for Centre to take the lead role in internal security roles as well.

The archetypal culture of central agencies like Intelligence Bureau (IB) passing on information to the states and expecting them to do the task of fighting terror modules, may not work anymore. And needless to say that most state level police forces in India are incapable of handling such terror groups on their own.

The need of the hour is to follow the FBI model of an integrated approach and merging organisations like IB, NIA, NSG, NTRO into one integrated organisation based on the critical pillars of intelligence gathering, analysis, special operations, investigation and follow-up prosecution. There is also the need to have American type Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) wherein state level and central level security agencies work in unison for fighting terrorism and pre-empting terror modules at the grass-roots level with Central Police Forces working as a backup as and when needed.

The threat of Al Qaeda and ISIS and their collaboration with Indian Mujahideen kind of organisations in India as well as their strong linkages with Pakistan based terror groups like LeT or the ISI, is proof enough of the strong external dimension of internal security threats in India.

India has always taken its external security more seriously and now it is time to take internal security on a war footing, because the internal and external divisions of security are blurring quickly.

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